Tech News : Loss of a Legend : Sir Clive Sinclair

The inventor, innovator, EV pioneer (with the C5), electronics and tech businessman Sir Clive Sinclair died recently, aged 81.

Circuit Design

Born in Richmond, Surrey in 1940, and knighted in 1983 for his contributions to the UK’s computer industry, Sir Clive Sinclair started out by designing a circuit for a DIY kit radio (while studying for his A ‘Levels) that was sold was sold through magazines like Practical Wireless.

Most Famous For The Sinclair C5

Many people will remember (or will have heard of) Sir Clive Sinclair as the inventor of the C5 electric vehicle which he launched in 1985, and which received a great deal of media coverage at the time. Although Sir Clive believed that the one-seater, low driving position, three-wheeled, compact (pedal-assisted) electric vehicle offered a new, environmentally friendly, and fun mode of transport that could beat the traffic jams, the public weren’t convinced. Ridicule in the media, attitudes of the day, and the fact that C5 drivers were vulnerable to many dangers (collisions from not being seen, lack of protection, traffic-fumes, etc) meant that only 12,000 were made, the assembly line was mothballed within its first year, and the Sinclair Vehicles company went bankrupt.

…And The ZX Computers

In the computer world, Sir Clive is also remembered for the ZX80 computer (in 1980), its follow-up the ZX81, and the ZX Spectrum, a competing product to the BBC Micro from Acorn (Chris Curry). The ZX computers, which originally came from Sir Clive teaming up with Chris Curry to form Sinclair Research, offered people a relatively low-priced but appealing early computer, made from a small number of components, that could run simple apps and basic games. ZX computers sold well across the world and, importantly, they provided an accessible introduction to home computing, helped a wider market to learn more about computers and basic programming, and helped many people to develop an enthusiasm for learning more about what became known as IT.

Other Ventures

Prior to his C5 and ZX computers, Sir Clive had designed and released the Sinclair Executive calculator in 1972. It was well received, affordable, won Design Council awards, and was even displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York!

In the early 1990s, Sir Clive launched a lightweight, folding electric bike called the ‘Zike’. Unfortunately, like the C5, it wasn’t popular. Also, in 2011, Sir Clive announced that he was working on another electric vehicle which he called the X1.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Sir Clive Sinclair’s story will be familiar to many entrepreneurs (and is echoed in their own stories). Although not all of his ventures were successful, and he experienced financial ups and downs as a result along the way, he was not deterred and was a very driven inventor and innovator. His contribution to the early development of affordable personal computers has, no doubt, made a positive contribution to the world of IT that has come to play such an important part in the world of business today. Many think that the C5 was before its time and there is a kind of irony that all major car manufacturers are now committed to producing electric vehicles although, of course, they look nothing like Sir Clive’s work and are much more complex (and safer) than the C5.

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